Tiger Woods looks skyward after hearing thunder while preparing to tee off at No. 1 in a practice round.
6x8.44 TIGERTEE As he gets ready to tee off on numer one tee, Tiger Woods looks upward after hearing thunder Tuesday afternoon.
After his tee shot the officials blew the horn and players left the course uintil all clear sign. photo by chris dorst
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - If you're West Virginian and know anything about golf, you should know about the long shadow cast over The Greenbrier by the great Sam Snead.I thought I knew and really didn't. Or maybe in the 100th anniversary of Snead's birth, that legacy just keeps growing.As Tiger Woods addressed the media for the zillionth time - but the first in our state - a theory popped into my head.Sure, resort owner Jim Justice put the full-court press on the Woods camp from the Greenbrier Classic's inception. Sure, Woods nearly played last year but bowed out, later citing his well-documented injuries.
Or, as my theory goes, it was the hand of Snead, whom Woods dearly admired. Call me nutty (again?), but you've got to admit the timing was a lot better this summer.As you probably know, Woods is coming here on the victory train, winning his own AT&T National in suburban Washington. With that, he won his 74th official PGA Tour event, shaking loose from Jack Nicklaus for second place on the all-time list.And you know, if you read these pages last week, who sits atop the list with 82 - Snead.Here's a bit of symmetry. Woods has now won three tournaments: the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Nicklaus-hosted Memorial Tournament and his AT&T National.You can figuratively put Snead's name on the Greenbrier Classic. Taking that into account, if Woods were to win this week, he would have . . .Yes, the Arnie-Jack-Tiger-Sam slam. Shoot, that sounds as impressive as his 2000-01 reign of major-championship terror.I don't know if that thought crossed Woods' mind as he entered this state for the first time, but you know he's coming here to pay golfing homage to Slammin' Sammy. He knows his history, and honors that history as he elbows his way into it.
When Snead was alive, Woods crossed his path more than a few times, and he shared those experiences eagerly in a laid-back press conference."You know, I met Sam when I was 5," Woods said. "He was playing at Calabasas out in L.A., and he was doing that outing where he would play with a new group every two holes. So he had nine groups, and I was this little snot-nosed kid at 5 years old that he had to play the two holes."Tiger vs. Sam, two of the most competitive (and sore-losing) players in the history of golf. Wouldn't you like to see them go at it in their primes?"I remember it was a par-3," Woods continued. "You know, I'm 5, I can't carry it that far. I hit it into the water and he tells me to go pick it up out of the water."
Snead was a taskmaster, I have heard, but this is hardcore.
"Even when my dad was alive, he would tell me that I was slightly competitive at that age, and I didn't like [Snead] telling me to pick up the ball, because my dad always taught me you play it as it is, there is no such thing as winter rules."So I went in and played it and I made bogey on that hole, the par-3, and I made bogey on the last hole. I still have the card at home - he signed it and he went par-par, and I lost by two."That was the first time I ever met Sam, but after that we've had countless dinners and conversations, and he was always so funny to be around, and the stories he would tell and the needling, the needling was nonstop."Woods said Snead shared with him the history of The Greenbrier and Old White, and his passion for this slice of America.But Woods said he was sold more by simply watching the Classic on TV, and seeing how much the players enjoyed it.
But in my nutty thoughts, I have to wonder. Is the growth of the tournament, all those gorgeous images on TV, players smiling and more relaxed than usual, simply the result of big vision and hours of hard work?Or is the hand of one Samuel Jackson Snead involved?I know one thing: The man would have loved to see what is happening at his favorite course. And would have loved to play two more holes with "snot-nosed" Tiger Woods.nn
Woods let on that he had two connections to West Virginia: Snead and his freshman roommate at Stanford.The odd thing is: We don't know that roommate's name, or where he was from. Woods wasn't letting those details loose, for whatever reason.One thing is known: In the book Tiger Woods: A Biography by Lawrence J. Londino, you learn that at Stanford, freshman roommates were selected at random.As it turned out, the unnamed West Virginian knew nothing about golf - he even took a call from "somebody with a funny accent," which turned out to be Greg Norman.Nothing serious. Norman just wanted to take the youthful Woods to a practice round at Augusta National.Woods did share one detail about that roommate. Apparently, he didn't know about golf but pretty much knew about everything else."I'm sure you'll research him, so we'll let it be," Woods said. "But I'll tell you what, the dude was smart."Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.